Last week, we asked you what you thought the next superintendent of schools should be like - it's not too late to take the survey here! - and you responded. You told us what traits the next leader of Duval County Public Schools should have, and your comments were incredible. They took up more than 10 pages, but we thought we would share a summary of them here.
Responses essentially adhered to six main themes: Experience and skills; leadership style; values; human capital/personnel; innovation; and whole child development. There were a few responses that focused on specific programmatic reform; these were not included.
Consensus themes: Track record in diverse and urban school districts; professional educator that has classroom experience; good financial skills.
Areas of disagreement: Whether or not this person should come from the outside or within DCPS.
"A person with a proven track record at turning around a large (failing or faltering) school district."
"This person should have first-hand experience as a teacher and as an administrator."
"Experience with large and diverse school system."
"Someone who has an education background and has 'hands on' knowledge of how the decisions they make will affect the students and teachers; in other words, a former or current teacher."
"Our superintendent should be a professional with experience. She or he should NOT come from within the current DCPS ranks."
"I think the superintendent should be promoted from the current employees as Pratt-Dannals was."
Consensus themes: Listens broadly and carefully; excels at and prioritizes communications; makes courageous decisions and stands by them; prioritizes collaboration with students, parents, teachers and the community.
Areas of disagreement: Some say this person should lead and not be cowed by the school board, others say he/she should work at getting along with the board.
"Someone with integrity who is a good communicator and good at collaborating."
"Our superintendent needs to have incredible communication skills, including the ability to adapt to an audience with varied abilities to communicate in 'standard' English. There is often a tendency to speak in lofty terms so that the language used is exclusive to people that may not be privy to higher education or may not be proficient English speakers."
"Our superintendent needs to communicate openly and admit failures rather than trumpeting non-existent or trivial triumphs. Honest communication will build credibility - something DCPS administration currently lacks."
"Strong-willed. Speak for yourself whenever possible."
"Collaborative - ability to work with school board."
"Should be a great communicator and consensus builder."
"A good listener."
"Honesty; open-mindedness; intelligence; experienced; able to hear all sides of an issue before making a decision, then standing by his decision."
"Engaging others throughout Jax."
"Be willing to listen to the parents, students and other community leaders and partners before decisions are made. Be sure to include all children in the decisions (birth to high school age)."
Consensus themes: Put st udents first in all decisions; have high expectations for all stakeholders in the system; respect diversity and value the achievement of all students, regardless of demographics or ability.
Areas of disagreement: None detected.
"This person must see that all academic achievement will sit on top of a foundation of social and emotional learning that has respect for diversity and inclusion at its core. All school personnel must have cultural competency and compassion to prepare and implement an environment that delivers student learning and academic achievement."
"Courage to put students first. Too many decisions are made based on what is good for the adults not the children. We need a superintendent that is not afraid to stand up for the students. We have to adopt student-centered reform and stop doing the things that are not working over and over because it works for the adults."
"They should have high expectations of students and teachers, parents, and administrators with an emphasis on instruction, provision for professional development, and use data to evaluate progress."
"Must want change for ALL students no matter the background, race, or character."
Human capital management and development
Consensus themes: Build higher quality leadership staff (principals, central office) and hold them accountable for results; reduce micromanaging and give school-level and classroom-level personnel more autonomy; improve teacher quality.
Areas of disagreement: How best to evaluate teachers - some responses reference the debate over whether there is too much focus on standardized testing versus the need to evaluate teachers based on student achievement
"Our superintendent needs to hold lower level leadership accountable. If a principal, for example, does a poor job, she needs to be fired or moved back to a position she can manage rather than being shuffled off to do the same poor job at another school."
"Hires the BEST principals and gives them more autonomy."
"If teacher's pay is determined by student performance, [this person] must have the courage to relinquish control over how those teachers get students to pass their exams. Teachers are trained professionals and must be allowed to get the results they know they can get. If they don't get the results, well, at least they know it was their CHOICE in practice and NOT what the powers that be are telling them to do in their classes."
"Encourage instructional leaders who discourage teaching to the test … maybe the test needs to change, not us."
"We need a superintendent that knows how to recruit, screen and retain great teachers. Teachers are the key and we need a superintendent who can develop a plan for teacher advancement and pay that is based on merit."
"Value the inherent worth of students to be the best that they can be with the support and nourishment of competent, thoughtful, and fully qualified teachers, who are evaluated by a number of criterions, including years of tenure."
Consensus themes: Willingness to take risks; desire for innovation and the presentation of new ideas.
Areas of disagreement: Some seem to want radical change, others want a reformer that will not throw the system into upheaval.
"Forward thinking and innovative. Willing to take risks."
"Leader that will get out of the box and look at different ways education can be done."
"He or she should be from outside the area, an area with great scholastic qualities, no 'good ol' boy' ties."
"Our superintendent needs to be able to seek solutions that are not beholden to special interest groups. We need new ideas and innovative thinking."
"Ability to stand up to an anachronistic board tied to failing philosophy and policies and union barriers."
"The leader should have the audacity to take risks and stand behind every decision, good or bad. A leader who can change the organization by being proactive and taking risks."
"RADICAL in his or her reform, gets rid of teachers/admin who do not have the kids' best interests at the forefront of their minds ... we really cannot afford to have anyone less than that."
"Should be a reformer with savvy to accomplish it without revolt."
Fostering whole child development
Consensus themes: Desire for leader who strengthens the district's ability to help students with more social services and non-core curriculum (arts, life skills, etc).
Areas of disagreement: None detected.
"Teaching the whole child. We want to compete in all aspects...globally. It means nothing to score high on a standardized test and be shy on stage when presenting your work."
"Be willing to look at other education systems that support the whole child and take lessons from them."
"Our students, especially those at highest risk of academic failure or underachieving, should have regular and repeated access to high quality social services and classes in life skills, health, physical and sex education, and expressive arts programs."